If you’re anything like us, you are crossing your fingers and hoping that 2022 will be a precedent year, with minimal surprises and plenty of space and time to calm down after these reeling two years. Before we get too wrapped up in planning our New Year’s Resolutions and boldly blazing forward, we want to take a moment to reflect on what 2021 held and take a quick glance ahead at some things we can expect in 2022.
Best: California Family Law Recognizes “Coercive Control”
Effective January 1, 2021, the California Family Code recognized ‘coercive control’ as a form of domestic violence.
Coercive control are acts that go beyond what we typically think of as intimate partner violence. In intimate partner violence, “coercive control is a pattern of oppressive behavior intended to control someone and strip away their sense of self.”
The inclusion of this conduct in our Family Code is incredibly important because it firmly cements that judges must consider all forms of abuse, not just ones that leave physical marks or ones that include very obvious forms of verbal and emotional attacks. Coercive control can instill fear even in the absence of physical violence and can continue after the relationship ends. The inclusion of this is our state legislature acknowledging the insidious forms of intimate partner violence from which our family court system has so far been inadequate to protect victims.
A Win for California Domestic Violence Advocates
At Gomez Edwards Law Group, LLP, we are hopeful that this will be a tremendous step in ensuring that victims of intimate partner violence have access to sufficient resources and support to gain freedom from their abusers.
Worst: California’s Proposition 19 Affects Property Tax Rates at Inheritance
For California estate planners, November 2020 was an incredibly important and disappointing election. Among the items presented to California voters was Proposition 19, which was passed by California voters by a very slim margin— just about 51% of the vote.
The Hidden Consequences of Prop 19 — New Rules for Property Assessments
As estate planning attorneys, our opinion is that this was a poorly written proposition. It was sold to the voters as providing a tax benefit to those over 55 years old who sell their homes and relocate: they could do so without facing such high property tax consequences; or as helping people who lose their homes due to natural disasters. While these are two ideas we support, the ugly and lesser known side of this proposition is the elimination of the property tax reassessments for parent-child, or grandparent-child property transfers at death.
Prior to Prop 19, children could inherit their parents’ real property without any property tax reassessment. That general rule is now gone. Now we have two new rules:
If a child inherits property from their parents and does not intend to use the property as their primary residence, the property will be reassessed.
If a child inherits property from their parents and does intend to use the property as their primary residence, then there may be a portion of the property that is saved from reassessment, and a portion that is not.
While the ‘pros’ arguing in favor of Prop 19 were focused on high net worth families, who own multiple real properties including vacation homes or investment properties, what was lost and forgotten in those arguments, and who are suffering now, are those families with very limited cash resources and liquidity.
[Elder parents who have owned their home since the 1940s-1980s, whose children cannot afford to buy real estate in this market—and are relying on inheriting their parents’ property in order to own real estate — now will face a dramatic increase in their property taxes because they are not guaranteed to inherit their parents’ property tax rate.]
In just the first 10 months of implementation, we have personally worked with families who will experience a massive negative consequence because of this proposition, and there truly is no way to mitigate the negative implications of this proposition. We can only hope that the state legislature, or a proactive group of California residents, will work together to minimize the truly harmful effects of this new law.
Looking Ahead to 2022
Condoms, Consent and its Legal Consequences
On October 7, 2021 Governor Newsom signed AB453. This new law makes it illegal to remove a condom without consent during sexual intercourse, known as “stealthing”. Nonconsensual condom removal will now be considered sexual battery under the state’s Civil Code, allowing victims to sue their sexual partners for damages.
Expansion and Increased Protection of a Child’s Right to Address the Court Regarding Custody
On October 9, 2021, Governor Newsom announced he signed SB654. SB654 amends California Family Code Section 3042 now “requiring the court to permit a child who is 12 years of age or older to address the court regarding custody or visitation, unless the court determines that doing so is not in the child’s best interest…The bill would require, among other things, a child custody evaluator, investigator, mediator, or other court-connected professional to inform the child of their right to address the court if the child is interviewed by the child custody evaluator, investigator, mediator, or other court-connected professional.”
This change will also increase barriers designed to protect children from parents who have committed domestic violence. The court will be required to make additional and very specific findings about why it is appropriate and in the best interests of the child for a parent who was found to commit domestic violence to return to unsupervised visits with the child.
On Taxes: Estate planners are keeping close watch.
The financial world has been watching with rapt attention to see what Congress will do with our estate and gift taxes, changes to federal trust law, and taxes in general. From an estate planner’s point of view,, we seem safe from any major changes, which at times seemed imminent with far reaching consequences. The nuances of these debates are far too great to relay here, but for now, the important thing is that our estate tax exemption, gift tax exemptions, and other tax planning tools remain unchanged and untouched. Our current tax rates are a component of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act; this is what increased the Estate Tax Exemption from $5.4 million to over $11 million. If Congress does not take any action to extend these rates, then in 2025, this law will ‘sunset’ (expire). So far, as of now, we appear to be safe and holding steady with our status quo for 2022.
One of our favorite things about the end of the year is reviewing where we started, and where we are when the year comes to a close. This year has held no shortage of eventful and major changes. We look forward to keeping you informed of other changes and developments as they take effect in this new year. We hope you’ll stay with us, and until next time, please enjoy this list of our blog highlights from 2021:
2 Dichter et. al., Coercive control in intimate partner violence: Relationship with women’s experience of violence, use of violence, and danger, Psychology of Violence, Vol 8(5), Sep 2018, 596-604.
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